Firstly, I have to say that I have read 50 Shades of Grey. I will try to keep my opinions to myself because this post is about the recent #AskELJames fiasco than anything else. I read the entire series because there was so much hype about it and when I finished, I understood why.
Moving on. The Twitter debacle started as a Q&A with one of the most famous/successful authors in recent decades and I thought it would be great to see what people would ask. However, in the back of my mind I knew what this would turn out to be. A Twitter troll-fest. And it was. It truly was. I cannot sit here and say that I was a bit surprised. Now that the dust has settled a bit the serious question is was EL James unfairly targeted? Bullied? Where is the line between criticism and bullying and was it crossed in the Q&A? Let’s explore shall we?
1. Was EL James “bullied” during her Twitter Q&A?
My opinion is that yes, she was subjected to some unacceptable and morally corrupt language. “Please kill yourself.” Really? This is a human being we are talking about here. No one deserves to be treated that way. At the same time, Twitter doesn’t mess around with this kind of stuff and people who make threats get banned and in some cases, arrested. Threats of bodily harm and violence of any kind should not be tolerated. There is a flip side to this though.
Most of the comments I read were snarky and condescending but they were not what I would consider bullying. When someone doesn’t like your work (And MANY people do not like her work) they have a right to express their opinions. Look at any reputable critic. They make their living judging other people’s work, usually in the creative sphere making the job of a critic even more repugnant in my view. But hey, opinions are just that, opinions. People can be assholes, and when you write something controversial, there will be people who feel the need to confront you. Thick skin is a necessity.
2. Were there any legitimate questions in all of that drivel?
I think there was a huge missed opportunity here. James had the chance to answer some very sincere questions about her work. Allot of the actual questions being asked came from other women authors and many sexual assault survivors. They questioned James about the undercurrent of domestic violence, abuse, and control in her books. I believe these brave people wanted and deserved answers. Imagine this. You are a survivor of rape, molestation or sexual battery, and then you see that one of the most popular and profitable books ever, is about sexual violence. You see the protagonist of the story portrayed as, for lack of a better word, a dummy. A sex toy to be used and abused as Mr. Grey sees fit. Survivors of these types of horrific and inexcusable crimes have questions and I think they deserved an answer. (I’m not addressing the other part of the equation here which is that EL James attempted to write a book about the BDSM community and by all accounts from, failed. I think members of that community have been appalled by some of things portrayed in her books and don’t see it as an accurate or fair representation of a dom/sub relationship.)
3. Is EL James showing young women that is okay to be in an abusive relationship?
First off, why is EL James your child’s reference point for what is acceptable and what is not? I have children. I have 3 girls and I strive to be their moral compass. They aren’t looking to Ana Steele, Kim Kardashian or anyone else to determine how they should be treated by a man. They look to me. If Anastasia Steel is your kid’s role model, you’ve got bigger problems on your hands.
EL James’s Twitter Q&A was a disappointment not because she was trolled mercilessly (Welcome to Twitter), but because she could have set the record straight about a number of things and didn’t because she probably spent most of her time hitting the “block” button.